I’ve been asked by several constituents what I think of Gov. Paul LePage’s recent comments about state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.
As a conservative Republican who supports the governor’s reform agenda, I cannot condone his insulting words. The governor’s comments were wrong and grossly inappropriate. He shouldn’t have said what he said.
The last thing we need at this point is any distraction from the serious business of addressing state government’s addiction to more taxes as the only way to balance the budget.
And while we’re at it, let’s not lose sight of the real progress that’s been made under the leadership of LePage in cleaning up cronyism and corruption in Augusta, as well as reforming the tax code, the public pension system and the welfare mess. We’ve come a long way in the past two-and-a-half years, but our work has only just begun in putting Maine on the path to fiscal sanity and economic recovery.
The chattering classes in Maine’s liberal media establishment have been consumed with hatred for LePage ever since he was elected. That hatred is mirrored by the majority party leadership in the Legislature. Senate President Justin Alfond and Jackson have never missed an opportunity to take a cheap shot at the governor since the legislative session convened last January. In the halls of the State House, their contempt for the governor is almost palpable.
So let’s be honest about what’s really going on here. This isn’t about LePage. It’s about crushing opposition to the relentless expansion of the welfare state. Liberalism measures its success by the number of people who depend on government to meet their basic needs.
LePage has a very different philosophy of government. He has put policies in place that will move Maine from dead last in business climate, to liberate more people from dependence on government.
Legislators in Augusta are faced this week with a very clear choice: enacting another badly flawed budget with more tax increases or sustaining the governor’s certain veto and enacting a temporary 60-day continuing resolution to avoid a state government shutdown.
This budget can be balanced without raising taxes on Maine people. I know it can, because I introduced budget amendments that would accomplish exactly that. We need a 60-day cooling-off period, so all the parties can calmly consider budget alternatives without the looming threat of a state government shutdown.
In the meantime, media outlets need to be reminded that honesty and accuracy should be the foundation of their work. I’ve been dismayed at some recent reports on what the proposed budget contains.
For example, Jill Goldthwait’s column in the The Ellsworth American of last week misrepresented the size of the tax increases proposed in the biennial budget recently passed by both houses of the Legislature. She stated that the tax increases are “a half percent on sales and a full percent on meals and lodging.”
Increasing the state sales tax from 5 cents on the dollar to 5.5 cents on the dollar is not a half percent increase. It is an increase of 10 percent.
Likewise, increasing the meals and lodging tax from 7 cents on the dollar to 8 cents on the dollar is not a 1 percent increase. It is an increase of 14.3 percent.
Everyone has a right to their own opinion about whether or not it’s a good idea to increase the tax burden on Maine people so that state government can increase spending. But we are not entitled to invent a new math, or engage in semantic sleight-of-hand, when we describe the proposal now pending at the State House.
As a freshman legislator, I cannot go back to my constituents, the people who elected me, and tell them I came to Augusta and couldn’t find any way to reduce the size and cost of state government. I cannot tell them that the only option was to increase sales taxes by 10 percent and meals and lodging taxes by 14 percent. Maine people cannot afford these tax increases.
State government needs to tighten its belt just like Maine taxpayers have tightened theirs.
Lawrence E. Lockman, R-Amherst, represents District 30 in the Maine House of Representatives. His email address is email@example.com.